An Enterprise Messaging Platform Worth Paying for?

Parlano is betting on the adoption of enterprise level messaging platforms with its latest unified group chat system MindAlign 2007. Will companies pay for enterprise messaging platforms in a technology world filled with free messaging products?

In the business world, instant messaging has become an integral part of communication, as companies use it to discuss business topics, to arrange and hold meetings, and to keep track of their contacts.

"IM is rapidly becoming an indispensable form of corporate communication," Rob Koplowitz, an analyst at Forrester Research, told eWEEK.

"E-mail, and more recently instant messaging, have enabled workers to communicate and share information effectively, affordably and quickly," said Mark Levitt, an IDC analyst.

When choosing an enterprise messaging platform, companies look for a system that is secure, does not contain risks that public messaging systems often have and allows businesses to be productive.

"With only telephones and courier services, the business world before online communications had built in delays that lengthened business processes and limited who participated in reviewing and making decisions about business issues," Levitt said.

"Enterprises now want an extensible real-time platform that can be used to build new applications and integrate with existing applications as well as telephony infrastructure," Forresters Kopolowitz said. "Its becoming part of a much larger application fabric on one side and part of a larger unified communications strategy on the other.

One unified communications platform provider, Parlano, believes that its latest messaging platform, MindAlign 2007, made available April 11, is a platform that can meet the above mentioned needs. An addition to its MindAlign product line, this unified messaging platform features a new user interface, new security functionality and mobile access with major mobile devices.

"MindAlign 2007 allows knowledge workers to come together around critical topics, clients and initiatives and becomes the ideal starting point for any mode of communication and the logical foundation of any companys unified communications approach," Jeff Schultz, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at the Chicago-based company, told eWEEK.

The big players in the enterprise messaging market include companies such as IBM, Jabber and Microsoft, which Parlano has integrated with to deliver MindAlign 2007.

"By building on Microsofts enterprise-grade platform and open interfaces, partners such as Parlano are delivering innovative communications and collaboration solutions that meet the needs of specific industries and job functions," Clint Patterson, spokesperson for Microsoft, told eWEEK.

Kopolowitz and Levitt agree that this offering from Parlano is unique and that it further entrenches them in the enterprise messaging market.

"Parlano has taken the value of synchronous communications, asynchronous communications and a persistent work space and brought them together in a unique way that helps teams collaborate rather than individuals communicate," Kopolowitz said.

"Parlano is already on the map with is persistent chat capabilities and continues to innovate and integrate with related applications and infrastructure," Levitt said.

MindAlign 2007s new user interface includes enhanced design elements for customized display, emoticons, contact lists, filters, alerts and folder management functionalities.

The unified messaging platform from Parlano allows enterprises to develop secure internetworks of business-class chat rooms that include customer, partner and supplier organizations.

MindAlign 2007 also includes enhanced security features such as a new administration console, integration with Microsoft Active Directory and channel categorization, which allows business users to access group chat channels as well as automated group invites.

"Organizations are under a lot of pressure to provide their workers with this type of capability but most IT organizations are fearful of the public networks because of virus issues, privacy issues, lack of secure identity management, lack of sophisticated logging and search capability, and propagation of desktop tools that create information silos," Schultz said.

MindAlign 2007 uses SIP (session initiated protocol)/SIMPLE (SIP for instant messaging and presence leveraging extensions) and also supports connectivity to major IM services such as AOL, MSN and Yahoo through Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005. The soon-to-be released Office Communications Server 2007 allows business users to transition between different forms of communication such as voice, web conferencing and video conferencing.

"Companies use Office Live Communications Server 2005 and Office Communicator 2005 to improve security, compliance and intellectual property protection around instant messaging while also reducing costs and increasing individual and team productivity and responsiveness," Patterson said.

According to Koplowitz, integrating with Microsoft Office has benefited Parlano by not putting them in a competitive position against one of the top enterprise messaging platform providers.

"The fact that Parlano has integrated so deeply with Microsoft Office Communication server has taken the competitive aspect off the table and clearly placed them in a complementary, non-threatening position with regard to Microsoft," Kopolowitz said.

"Parlano shares our belief that enterprise IM and presence are core tools for todays information workers," Patterson said.

Schultz believes that although it is not free like other messaging services, MindAlign 2007 goes further than normal IM capabilities and is well worth the price.

"MindAlign 2007 adds value beyond instant messaging because it involves persistent group messages instead of temporary one-to-one messages and it combines real-time communication with persistent group communication," Schultz explained. "There is momentum within organizations to move away from public networks for IM already and the added value of group chat is a benefit of using MindAlign 2007."

When it comes to paying for an enterprise messaging platform, Kopolowitz believes that businesses could go either way.

"Many companies have decided that IM is not an essential business tool and have simply dealt with the risks by blocking the usage of public systems while others have decided that they are comfortable with the risk associated with the use of public systems," Kopolowitz said. "However, the numbers that fall into these categories is diminishing every day."

Levitt, on the other hand, said he believes that paying for an enterprise messaging platform would be beneficial for businesses because with the use of public messaging platforms there are no guarantees.

"Free messaging platforms is designed for consumers, not business users and there are no guarantees that it will be available when needed," Levitt said.

MindAlign 2007 is available now as pricing can range from several hundred dollars per user depending on required security, compliance and scalability options and volume.


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